5 Animals That Might Show Up In Your Toilet to Terrify You

iStock/RichardCardenas
iStock/RichardCardenas

A man in Coral Springs, Florida, got more than he bargained for over Memorial Day weekend when he lifted the lid on his toilet and had a 4-foot ball python pop out—and bite him on the arm. Fortunately, the snake (which was captured and taken to the Coral Springs Humane Society) is nonvenomous and the man was treated at the scene. But he's not the only one to encounter an unwanted critter in the commode. If the stories below teach us anything, it's to look before you sit.

1. Snakes

In 2015, San Diego's Department of Animal Services removed a 5.5-foot-long Columbia rainbow boa from a toilet in an office building. Stephanie Lacsa, the unfortunate person who found the snake, noticed a higher than normal level of water in the bowl and, when she began to plunge it, the snake popped out. “I thought my eyes were deceiving me,” Lasca said. “This is every person’s worst nightmare.” 

Officials believe the snake Lasca found didn't come in through the toilet, but was instead left there by someone. Still, snakes seem to pop up in toilets fairly often: An Isreali man was bitten on the penis by a snake in his toilet; a Staten Island man was brushing his teeth when he saw a California kingsnake in his toilet bowl; a Mumbai family discovered a 6-foot cobra in their toilet, mere moments after someone had used it; a Pennsylvania woman found a black snake in her commode; and so on. 

2. Rats

Small rat on a white background
iStock/Dixi_

It’s no urban legend: Rats can totally crawl up into your toilet bowl (here’s how they do it). Just ask the couple in South London who were afraid to go to the bathroom after a rat kept poking its head up into their toilet bowl for 8 months in 2013, or the Brooklyn residents who were watching TV when a rat entered their apartment through the toilet, or the many people who have posted videos of rats in their toilets on YouTube.

“It happens all the time, especially if you live in the basement or a first floor apartment,” Eddie Marco, owner of Brooklyn Pest Control, told Gothamist. “The pipe is empty, the rat crawls through the pipe and up over the hump and into the porcelain. And he can’t get back out.” Vector control in Portland, Oregon reportedly receives 10 to 15 calls a year from residents who have found rats, alive and dead, in their toilets. Marco’s advice: If you find a rat in your toilet bowl, flush it down—and if it gets into your apartment, call the experts to deal with it.

3. Frogs

Portrait of a bullfrog
iStock/ygluzberg

It’s less scary than finding a snake or rat, but it’s probably still pretty disconcerting to see a frog hanging out in your toilet bowl. It happens to lots of people: Googling “frog in toilet” yields more than 27.3 million results. One Florida resident found enough frogs in his toilet that he wrote in to the Tampa Bay Times for advice: “How does a frog (of a pretty good size) get in the toilet? We had one a number of years ago and then again just Sunday.” The newspaper recommended putting a mesh screen over the toilet vent and keeping lights off at night (keeping them on would attract bugs and, therefore, potentially frogs).

4. Squirrels

Close-up photo of a squirrel eating
iStock/johnlric

Rats aren’t the only rodents to pop up in toilet bowls. In 2008, a writer for Tallahassee magazine recounted what happened when her cats tipped her off to a squirrel in the toilet, and in 2010, a woman in Edmond, Oklahoma, discovered a squirrel splashing around in the bowl. It took two officers several minutes to “apprehend” the creature—which jumped out of the toilet and ran around the bathroom—and release it in a local park. And in 2013, Winnipeg resident Angela Campbell heard loud sounds coming from her toilet. “I was envisioning ... monsters,” she told the Winnipeg Free Press. Instead, she found a very smelly squirrel, “caked with whatever was inside the pipes, from wherever it was coming from.” Campbell didn’t freak out, though; instead, she removed the sad, weak little squirrel, cleaned it up in her bathtub, and set it free.

5. Possums

Photo of a baby possum
iStock/timharman

It appears that, in addition to playing dead, some possums enjoy taking a swim. In 2008, Brisbane, Australia resident Tim Fraser was doing the laundry in his bathroom when the water in the toilet began to gurgle—and out popped a baby possum. "It was like the toilet had given birth," Fraser told the Sydney Morning Herald. In 2011, Austin, Texas photographer Shaylan Nelson’s husband found what he thought was a baby rat, but was actually an adorable baby possum, in their toilet; they rescued the little guy and set him free. And in 2013, West Virginia writer Karin Fuller recounted the tale of finding a dead possum in her toilet—which, depending on your point of view, might be worse than a live possum.

And now, for no reason at all, here's a video of baby possums eating watermelon:

Updated for 2019.

Is There An International Standard Governing Scientific Naming Conventions?

iStock/Grafissimo
iStock/Grafissimo

Jelle Zijlstra:

There are lots of different systems of scientific names with different conventions or rules governing them: chemicals, genes, stars, archeological cultures, and so on. But the one I'm familiar with is the naming system for animals.

The modern naming system for animals derives from the works of the 18th-century Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné (Latinized to Carolus Linnaeus). Linnaeus introduced the system of binominal nomenclature, where animals have names composed of two parts, like Homo sapiens. Linnaeus wrote in Latin and most his names were of Latin origin, although a few were derived from Greek, like Rhinoceros for rhinos, or from other languages, like Sus babyrussa for the babirusa (from Malay).

Other people also started using Linnaeus's system, and a system of rules was developed and eventually codified into what is now called the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN). In this case, therefore, there is indeed an international standard governing naming conventions. However, it does not put very strict requirements on the derivation of names: they are merely required to be in the Latin alphabet.

In practice a lot of well-known scientific names are derived from Greek. This is especially true for genus names: Tyrannosaurus, Macropus (kangaroos), Drosophila (fruit flies), Caenorhabditis (nematode worms), Peromyscus (deermice), and so on. Species names are more likely to be derived from Latin (e.g., T. rex, C. elegans, P. maniculatus, but Drosophila melanogaster is Greek again).

One interesting pattern I've noticed in mammals is that even when Linnaeus named the first genus in a group by a Latin name, usually most later names for related genera use Greek roots instead. For example, Linnaeus gave the name Mus to mice, and that is still the genus name for the house mouse, but most related genera use compounds of the Greek-derived root -mys (from μῦς), which also means "mouse." Similarly, bats for Linnaeus were Vespertilio, but there are many more compounds of the Greek root -nycteris (νυκτερίς); pigs are Sus, but compounds usually use Greek -choerus (χοῖρος) or -hys/-hyus (ὗς); weasels are Mustela but compounds usually use -gale or -galea (γαλέη); horses are Equus but compounds use -hippus (ἵππος).

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

A Rare Blue Lobster Ended Up in a Cape Cod Restaurant

Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Richard wood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Lobsters have precious few defenses when it comes to being tossed in a vat of boiling water or on a grill and turned into dinner. They have not yet evolved into not being delicious. But sometimes, one lucky lobster can defy the odds and escape their sentence by virtue of a genetic defect that turns them blue.

According to MassLive, one such lobster has been given a reprieve at Arnold's Lobster & Clam Bar in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Named "Baby Blue," the crustacean arrived at the restaurant from the Atlantic and was immediately singled out for its distinctive appearance.

Blue lobsters are a statistical abnormality. It's estimated only one in every two million carry the defect that creates an excessive amount of protein that results in the color. A lobsterman named Wayne Nickerson caught one in Cape Cod in 2016. He also reported catching one in 1990. Greg Ward of Rye, New Hampshire caught one near the New Hampshire and Maine border in 2017.

Lobsters can show up in a variety of colors, including orange, yellow, a mixture of orange and black, white, and even take on a two-toned appearance, with the colors split down the middle. Blue is the most common, relatively speaking. A white (albino) specimen happens in only one out of 100 million lobsters. The majority have shells with yellow, blue, and red layers and appear brown until cooked, at which point the proteins in the shell fall off to reveal the red coloring.

It's an unofficial tradition that blue lobsters aren't served up to curious customers. Instead, they're typically donated to local aquariums. Nathan Nickerson, owner Arnold's, said he plans on doing the same.

[h/t MassLive]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER